Well we just hit -10 Celsius today with about 10 to 20 knot gusts of icy air. Russia has the most radical shifts in weather I have ever seen in my life and I have been to more then a few places.. Just yesterday it was almost t-shirt and jacket weather but not today..
One day we can have great sunshine and the next day we can have cold rain or snow and it cycles through these patterns very quickly either in the Autumn or the Spring. In any case I’m expecting this to go up and down some more and then bottom out somewhere between -35C to -40C especially during Jan and Feb.
The locals say that a REAL SIBERIAN MAN never complains about the weather.. He just dresses appropriately.. how true this is..
Anyways for you intrepid souls who will literally go through hell and high water to find your Princess.. this is how I recommend you prepare for your trip especially if you come between the months of November to March and if you are going to go “sight seeing” or stroll around town for any length of time.
So if you were buck naked this is the sequence of clothes you need to put on.
Start with a good pair of long-john thermal underwear and a thermal long-sleeve under-shirt.
When you have those two items on.. go ahead and put your normal slacks or jeans on. along with a normal leather belt.
I also have a mobile phone nylon case holder that slips on to my belt. Very handy to have when you are in doors and need to stow away your mobile which is an absolute necessity to have here no matter how short your stay is.
Wear a nice heavy duty “out-door” long sleeve shirt.. preferably one with metal snaps as opposed to buttons… the buttons wear out quickly here and fall off and the snaps allow you to rip your shirt off in a hurry if you get too warm while you are indoors..
Next put on two pairs of outdoor camping thermal socks.. tuck the pant legs of your thermal Long-Johns into your socks so that its easier to get your boots on. By the way..you need two socks not because of the cold but because it will help cushion your feet with the heavy boots you will wear..
Next.. put on a nice pair of Farmer John style ski pants with suspenders. They should be high enough to cover as much of your chest as possible.
Your boots.. get something like a good pair of Timberland hiking boots with think hard rubber soles and deep tread patterns. When you start walking on frozen and polished ice on the streets you will really appreciate this.
Also when you walk on ice.. slide your feet forward one after the other as if you were roller or ice skating.. do not lift your feet or else you will find out very quickly how fun it is to go SPLAT on some extremely hard ice.. This is how most people in Russia end up with broken bones by the way..
Now a sweater at this point is optional and really depends on the type of jacket you get. If you have a normal stateside winter jacket without a hood you will need to wear a killer sweater along with a nice long wool scarf and serious head cover.. Personally I hate wearing sweaters because of the static building up in the dry weather that just makes my skin crawl..
So that’s why it’s a much better deal to get the killer Arctic Style Jacket instead..
This jacket in the states could easily cost you from $300 to $500 bucks but the same jacket here can be had for $150 because all the major manufacturers like Columbia want to make sure that their products are popular in a place like Siberia in order to help prove their brand… so they subsidize it and make it especially affordable for normal Russians..
In any case the Jacket is the most important piece..
The first thing you notice is that it is thick and makes you look like the Michelin Man from Space when you wear it.. that’s because it’s filled with fine down or thinsulate fibers.. It’s got the KILLER hood on it.. the same type of hood you see with the Alaskan Eskimos.. because it is lined with lose and stringy fur along the edges which wrap around your face and head.
I never understood why that was so useful until you get caught in a snow storm where the snow blows horizontally and parallel to the ground. The fur around your head helps to break up the snow and prevents it from flying straight into your face and freezing it in the process. Of course the downside is that you have total tunnel vision as you walk around and cannot see to the left or right but only straight ahead.. so if you cross any streets with this on.. be especially careful and look both ways a few times to make sure.
This jacket has big huge plastic or nylon zipper.. Do NOT get a jacket with metal zippers! They get frozen in this weather and jam very easily.. and if you can’t zip up your jacket in this extreme weather.. you are screwed..
This jacket will have HUGE and multiple pockets all over it.. probably about 4, 6 sometimes even 8 pockets on the outside along with extended plastic zipper grabs that allow you to zip them up and down with the thick gloves you will wear. These pockets will be very deep and some will have an inner mesh pocket as well so you can separate out various items.
Quite frankly get the best Jacket along these lines you can find because it’s worth it.. It feels like a bloody space suit when you put it on and makes you believe you are an astronaut exploring a distant frozen planet.. and besides it makes you feel and look “cool” too because you look like Mr. Adventure.
If you wear a watch.. don’t wear any of those LCD watches since the Liquid Crystal freezes and barely works in this temperature range.. just stick to a good old fashion mechanical watch and you will do just fine..
Now even with the killer jacket and the killer hood you will still need either a winter head cap or a good thick baseball cap to wear with it. I like the baseball cap because the duckbill holds the jacket hood up and allows me to see better all around.
Finally your gloves.. do not depend on cheap leather gloves.. get the hard core winter ski gloves with long plastic velcro straps on them which allow you to strap the glove down tightly or to take them off quickly… especially when someone comes to you outside to shake your hand. They must be long enough to completely cover your wrists because any exposed skin in this kind of freeze is not a very pleasant experience. Since my hands get cold easily I wear gloves that actually have a air vent in them that allows me to exhale my breath into them in order to circulate warm air to my fingers.
Now the funny thing about Russians is that they never wear ski-goggles or ski-glasses even when it’s really blowing.. so in order to not announce to the world that you are a foreigner I don’t recommend that you wear them because no matter how cold and nasty it gets no Russian person ever wears them. “When in Rome..”
So Speaking about Rome..
What I just described above will take care of you outdoors during the coldest months when the temperature drops anywhere below minus 20C.
However, In order to determine what level of clothes to wear during any time of the year.. just simply look outside your window to see what everyone else is wearing and you can’t go wrong.. If you follow my sequence on how to get dressed you should be able to get this down to getting ready within 5 minutes once you try it out a few times.
Now I don’t want any of you guys to freak out about the weather now that you’ve read this.. If you have the right clothes and come prepared you will have a very enjoyable time and this will be a great adventure.
In any case when you see large numbers of Russian Women walking around in incredibly beautiful full body Fur Coats and high heel winter boots you will be thankful that you had the opportunity to witness how these ladies can get along so well in this environment and STILL look so incredibly beautiful at the same time..
It is truly one of the wonders of this world..
And it will make you appreciate these ladies that much more..